REVIEW: THE CHILD EATER / AUTHOR: RACHEL POLLACK / PUBLISHER: JO FLETCHER BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Rachel Pollack is better known for her work on the Tarot as well as her short (and highly controversial) run on classic DC comic book Doom Patrol. Her Tarot books are widely regarded as some of the best in the field and her forays into fiction have mostly been set in a world of magical realism.
The Child Eater is a bold new step for Pollack in the sense that much of it is high fantasy. The book follows the journey of two boys. one is called Matyas and lives in a world of magic and strangeness. The other is called Simon and lives in the real world. Both are afflicted with strange gifts that not only define who they are, but also imperil their very existence, and both are haunted by the wails of lost children. The titular Child Eater stalks both boys, and together they must work out how to defeat a monster that seeks to feast on their very essence.
The novel is rich with metaphor and subtlety. For example Matya’s main goal in life is to learn how to fly, whereas Simon’s abilities mark him out as an outsider, making him desperate to be accepted. Much of the magic revolves around the Tarot and those familiar with the cards will be able to derive a great deal of meaning from key scenes and sections.
This is a slowly paced novel, Pollack’s gentle and graceful writing is engaging and addictive but it is also very gradual. The relationship between Simon and his father, Jack, is also particularly well done and moving and makes this work feel deeply personal in places.
The Child Eater is not the monster adventure story that the title might suggest; it is a multi-layered tale of growing up and self-discovery that also happens to have a horrific supernatural terror as its central focus. This is a book for those who like to take their time with a novel and absorb multiple meanings, casual readers may well find themselves bored. If you’re inclined to the occult and like your stories gentle yet deep, then you’ll adore The Child Eater.